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UN: Record Numbers of Somalis, Ethiopians Flee to Yemen

UN refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres (R) speaks to Ethiopian illegal immigrants from the Oromo region waiting for smugglers' boats to cross the Gulf of Aden into Yemen. Each year tens of thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis make the perilous crossing t

The United Nations says a record number of refugees have fled Ethiopia and Somalia for Yemen, despite the instability there.

The U.N. refugee agency reports that nearly 85,000 refugees from the Horn of Africa countries have boarded smuggler boats and made the risky trek across the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea this year.

That figure is 8,000 more than the previous record set in 2009.

During a press conference in Geneva on Friday, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming noted the number of Ethiopians migrating to Yemen has now surpassed the number of Somalis.

According to the agency, most Ethiopians have said they left their country because of a lack of economic and job opportunities. Others have said they fear persecution and insecurity in their homeland.

Most Somalis have indicated they left to escape conflict, insecurity, drought and famine.

The United Nations has said many new arrivals to Yemen are apparently unaware of the unrest in that country.

The Yemeni government has clashed with activists calling for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.